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Arizona – April 13th-14th, 2011

Less than 72 hours have passed since the finale of the annual Coachella Arts and Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, CA. In that time, the ringing in my ears has quieted to a dull hum, I’ve made a trip to urgent care on account of an unidentified infection on my buttocks, I’ve taken 9 showers (that’s 9 more showers than I took in the previous 72 hours, which in itself is likely the cause of the butt infection), and I’m already looking forward to the announcement of next year’s Coachella lineup. It was fantastic.

From April 13-17th, my friend Dan Phillips and I went on a live music binge. We saw Arcade Fire from the fourth row. We saw The Black Keys perform on consecutive nights. We survived the pit at One Day As A Lion, endured the confusion of Brandt Brauer Frick, and were introduced to the abhorrence that is Skrillex. We were sweaty, dehydrated, malnourished, and tired. And it was awesome.

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting an abridged recap of our trip. For now, Part 1.

April 13th: Arcade Fire w/Local Natives – Comerica Theatre, Phoenix, AZ

According to Local Natives, Win Butler is a power in the low post.  This isn’t surprising, considering the dude is gigantic.  Apparently, he is also great at ping pong, which I imagine is just the result of pure intimidation.  And fortunately for those in attendance, he’s also the great front man of great band.

Dan lives three blocks from the venue and was able to get floor tickets the day of the general sale.  This was fortunate considering I missed the presale due to some confusion while dealing with a CSR in need of a remedial lesson in time zones.

ME:  Ok, the website says the presale starts at 10AM, but it doesn’t say which time zone.  Do you know which time zone?

CSR:  Sure, let me look that up.  Ok, it says 10AM…Middle.  Middle time.

ME:  Middle?

CSR:  Middle.

ME:  Are there letters next to the time?

CSR:  Yes, MDT.

ME:  (palm to the face) Ok, thanks.

Unfortunately, that turned out to be the general sale and I completely missed the presale.  Dan came through big, though, and I probably owe him some croutons (dude loves croutons).

We meandered through the crowd during the set change and found ourselves fourth row, slightly right of center. Needless to say, it was a little surreal.  In Columbus, being fourth row at Arcade Fire would require camping out hours before the show, sprinting to the front when the doors open, fiercely defending your space during the opener, and suppressing the urge to pee for approximately five hours.  The Phoenix crowd was relatively passive, so everything was easy and laid back.

A post-Grammy let down is probably a risk for any band coming off an album-of-the-year win. With validation, it would be natural to expect a loss of urgency; with confirmation, an extinguished passion. Not the case with Arcade Fire. Songs off Funeral and Neon Bible were just as powerful. And as members of the band switched instruments throughout the performance, you got the sense that they genuinely enjoy performing and would play with the same intensity if they were in a tiny art gallery (the venue for their last performance in Phoenix). Good times (setlist here).

Not to be overlooked were Local Natives, a great band currently working on a follow-up to their debut, Gorilla Manor. It remains to be seen if they’ll name the album after the housein which it’s written again, but I’m sure they’ll be more soaring harmonies and even more unique facial hair. Until then, check out this Fool’s Gold remix of Wide Eyes (and, of course, this live version of the original).

Local Natives belting out those three-part harmonies.

Win getting serious.

We Used To Wait.

April 14th:  The Black Keys w/Cage the Elephant and Stone Foxes – Mesa Amphitheater, Mesa, AZ

The day began with a trip to Jerome, AZ in search of Ohio-native Maynard James Keenan’s house, or at least some of his wine.  Dan had been raving about Jerome since his first visit, and the prospect of being in close proximity to Maynard tilling his own grave to keep it level (APC!) was more than enough incentive to take the two hour trip north.  While we didn’t encounter Maynard (or Harry Merkin, as he is known in Jerome), we did stop byCaduceus Cellars, the Puscifer store, and a back road where Maynard may or may not reside.

The twice-razed town of Jerome, AZ

Flight #2 at Caduceus.  The AC was on FULL BLAST which was either a ploy to increase the sale of Caduceus hoodies or an effort to keep the sommelier from decomposing.

Puscifer Shop (no Mr. Show DVDs to be found)

That night, we headed to Mesa to keep the Ohio motif going with a performance from Akron heroes The Black Keys.  Having followed The Black Keys for over ten years, it was a little strange to see them playing for a sold out crowd in Mesa—a very ambivalent feeling.  You want The Black Keys to achieve the success and recognition they deserve, but then you see random people in Mesa who don’t know “thickfreakness” going nuts for “Tighten Up” and everything suddenly feels cheap.  This same feeling of ownership by fans who perceive themselves as having been there since the beginning has probably been applied to every band that has ever gained any sort of popular exposure.  So, I guess all you can do is take pride in the fact that the evolution of their discography has been a memorable, associative part of your musical history and not some cache discovered en masse long after the time that created the songs has passed.

Next up, Coachella!

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